For the last few weeks, my work laptop (running Vista Business) had been functioning quite poorly. I was experiencing Windows Explorer crashes several times each day, shutting down was very slow, and in general things just were not stable. This is probably partially due to the fact that, like David, I am a beta junkie. So, I decided to do what any computer-savvy person would do in such a case – reformat and reinstall windows.

But, now that I had decided to reformat, I had the option of choosing to downgrade to XP, which many people have decided to do. I’ve had a few beefs with Vista; they are minor annoyances, granted, but they still come up on almost a daily basis. I can narrow down my complaints and will outline them below.

Folder Views – Folders are terrible about keeping their correct views. I’ve got development folders with picture columns, some folders revert to thumbnails now matter how many times I set them to details view. The new Add/Remove Programs list was using small icons rather than details every single time it opened (I promptly set it to details view every time).

Network Connections – In XP, I had a nice start menu item that would take me directly to the network connections. In Vista, the option for that start menu item is removed. I can find no way for direct access to network connections. It is at least a two step process. Personally, I do not want the dummied down Network and Sharing Center. I want direct access to my TCP/IP config and network status.

Up Directory Button – Probably the most trivial of them all, I really miss the up directory button. I know the breadcrumbs are there, and I like them, but sometimes when dealing with really long folder names or network shares, the folder name is so long there is only one breadcrumb item listed, which makes going up a directory much more cumbersome using the darn dropdowns. Fortunately, you can go up a directory using the Alt+Up key combo, which I was glad to know since I regularly use the keyboard for file navigation.

So, given the above reasons and my thinking that XP was just a little simpler and more straight-forward than Vista, I decided to install XP Pro on my laptop. I got it up and running and at first I was quite satisfied with my change. Maybe it was nostalgia to be back in the OS that I had used for so many years, or maybe it was some distorted feeling of satisfaction to be one of the growing numbers that say Vista just isn’t worth the upgrade. But, after using XP for a mere few hours, it became quite evident that, to me, Vista had become worth the upgrade. It’s not as if there is some outstanding new thing that exists in Vista that makes XP unusable. It’s really just the little things that you take for granted after getting used to them.

Start Menu search – I never thought it would be a big deal, but I’ve become very accustomed to using the Vista start menu search functionality. After tapping the Windows key and starting to type several times, it was apparent that I had developed a habit of using the search. I love Launchy as much as the next geek, and have even donated money to the project, but having that instant access from the start menu is addicting. Breadcrumbs – I know I had a complaint about the breadcrumbs, and I think it’s valid, but I really got used to the darn things. It’s especially useful for developers who work in multiple projects. If I’m in the debug folder of one project and want to get back to the root folder for all projects, it’s quite nice to just click it and go. I still want the up button, but I really like breadcrumbs, too.

Aesthetics – I know, it’s a little silly to be talking about the prettiness of an OS, but really that’s what all the hype is about any more … How much eye candy can we throw on the screen. Let me put it simply, the colors are nice, aero glass rocks, and everything is smooth. Vista just looks better than XP, plain and simple.

Drivers – Vista has much better driver support out of the box. Granted my hardware is very new, but XP didn’t have any of my hardware drivers, not even wired network, which was surprising. And bluetooth in XP? Forget it. To even get support, I had to install Toshiba’s bluetooth stack and it was cumbersome. Vista handles it natively and it is much smoother. So, mere hours after just installing XP, Visual Studio (which takes forever), Office 2007, and other commonly used apps, I wiped it all and started again. The only change this time is I’m taking advantage of my MSDN subscription and using Vista Ultimate 64-bit.

The folder view problems I was having have not come back to plague me yet and I’m getting by with the other annoyances. So far my 64-bit experience has been seemless. I have had no driver issues and no crashes. All my hardware, including my fingerprint reader, works just fine. And I’m already a 64-bit snob, as I scoff at applications which don’t have a 64-bit version, wondering when they’ll get with the times. 🙂

What about you, Vista users, have you considered switching back to XP? Do you have the guts to take the plunge? Have I changed your mind? If you do try it, let me give you a word of advice from my experience. Don’t copy over your 8+ GB of backups until you’re sure you sticking with your install. Copying that much data over the network several times in one day is not pleasant!